Boasting a superb location in the Mediterranean and one of the world’s best natural harbours, Menorca is one of Europe’s top holiday destinations. But it hasn’t always been sun, sea and relaxation on this tiny island – Menorca has a rich history of invasion and foreign influence, and has experienced its fair share of upheaval.
Find out what made Menorca what it is today with this brief guide into its fascinating past.
Prehistoric Menorca (4000BC – 400BC)
It’s thought that people from mainland Spain and the eastern Mediterranean were settling in Menorca from as early as 4000BC and as a result the island is home to the world’s greatest concentration of prehistoric culture. Nowadays you can still visit the burial chamber Naveta d’Es Tudons – Spain’s oldest roofed building from where at least 100 corpses this Bronze Age burial chamber were recovered during 1950s excavations.
Classical Menorca (400BC – 903AD)
As the island expanded its trade throughout the Mediterranean , the Carthaginians (famously lead by Hannibal’s brother, Magón) arrived in around 400BC. They enlisted slingers and honderos to fight in the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome and paid their troops in wine and women.
In 123 BC, the island was conquered for Rome by Quintus Caecilius Metellus and the province of Balearis Minor was formed. Christianity was firmly established throughout Roman rule and the island was renamed Minorica. Vandal rule led to the persecution of many Christians throughout the 5th century before the Byzantines overthrew them and restored peace to the island in 533AD.
Spanish Menorca (903 – 1492)
The island was captured and renamed Minurka by the Moors in 903AD and entered the Caliphate of Córdoba under Islamic rule. The island’s Ciutadella (Medina Minurka) was established as the capital and agricultural production was improved through introducing new irrigation techniques. Very little remains of this period, but may place names still begin with ‘bini’, which means ‘son of’ in Moorish.
The 13th century was a time of upheaval throughout southern Spain when Christianity recaptured it from the Moors. Catalan became the official language after Alfons III conquered the island in 1287, the island was incorporated into modern day Spain in 1492 and the island enjoyed peace until the early 16th century. Discover the history first hand and book a flight to Menorca with http://www.cheapflights.co.uk/flights/Menorca/ .
Pirates and Plague (1535 – 1712)
This early 16th to 18th centuries were known as Menorca’s dark period, with Turkish pirate Barbarossa razing Maó to the ground in 1535 and killing or enslaving more than half the population. Another similar raid in 1558 had a similar outcome: most of the city was destroyed and more than 3000 people were taken as slaves to Constantinople. Bubonic plague and pirates continued to ravage the island until British influence grew at the end of the 17th century.
British and French Menorca (1708 – 1802)
Known as ‘The Golden Age of Menorca’, British rule was officially established in 1713 after a period of war and violence. Farming was improved, roads were developed, new schools were built and the Inquisition was abolished during this time. Maó was also made capital.
The island was briefly seized by the French in 1756 but was returned to the British in 1763. It was then passed between Spanish and British power until being returned to the Spanish crown in 1802.
Dominated by Spanish civil War in the twentieth century, the monarchy was restored under King Juan Carlos I in 1975 and Spain once again became a democracy. Nowadays Menorca continues to thrive as a tourist destination, and expats make up 10% of the population.